My view towards writing in 2014 has been a severely flawed and counter-productive one. I felt as if my mind would shift moods like a car shifts gears. As long as my mind was on “Write” Gear, I could sit down, type something out in a fervor, smile upon it and be content with its quality. However, as long as I was shifted to any other gear I could not write. I wasn’t “in the right mood” for it. If I decided my brain was a manual transmission, then shifting gears could be just as disastrous as my experiences driving such cars. Jerky movements, a forsaken clutch, and a stalled engine. So I treated my mind no differently than the automatic transmission of my vehicle, allowing it to determine when it should be in what gear.
This metaphor is not entirely inaccurate. There are days where my fingers seem to tap on the keyboard of their own accord, my thoughts scattering upon the monitor just as the autumn leaves decorate the lawn. Then there are days where I stare at the blank document, cursor blinking before me, trying to decide just what it is I want to say. It is in these moments that I either close the untitled document and open Netflix, or decide to just jab whatever comes to mind, treating the page length as a progress bar until I can say “Okay, that’s enough words, I’m done now”.
At the start of the year I had determined that I no longer had to do such things. If I didn’t have anything to say about a game then I wouldn’t say anything, and would only focus on what I thought was relevant. While my writing style largely did shift, I still managed to feel guilty about an empty and inactive blog. I would force myself to write, and ultimately I’d have little more than bullet points embellished upon a digital page.
This is not what I believe writing should be. Writing should flourish. The words should engage the reader, snatching them from their computer chair and sucking them into a world filled with verbs, similes, adjectives and alliteration. To tickle the brain stem and turn time into a meaningless concept. I did not want to merely write things I yearned to scribe insightful pontification.
There lies the trap. What is writing, anyway? What is with the use of words that makes it so engaging? What determines when I’m in a “writing mood”? Let us consider that sentence for a moment. “I yearned to scribe insightful pontification”. Just what the Hell does that even mean? The chosen vocabulary makes it sound meaningful and impressive, but if we were to simplify it for efficiency and brevity, just what is it that I’m saying? Hipster hogwash, that’s what.
I’ve been ensnared by a demon whispering into my ear, informing me that my writing is not good enough because I’m not clever enough with words. It’s not enough to be analytical, I have to be entertaining! For someone that does so much studying and dissection of entertainment, enough to abandon the dreadful term “fun” in favor of “engaging” due to its broad yet accurate definition, I have had little understanding of how to write effectively.
So let us bring it back to basics. What, precisely, is writing? Writing is communication, same as speech. Good writing is merely good communication. The meaning is clear, and if there is any confusion then it is through communication that further clarity can be found. Good communication is adequate when one person is speaking with one or more people.
I, on the other hand, require excellent writing. In order to determine what would make writing excellent, I must consider what makes speech excellent. One might naturally consider someone standing at a podium, discussing corporate plans to boost profits or preparing to honor an esteemed individual with an award. Yet excellent speakers can also be comedians and leaders, people who rely on engaging with their audience.
The importance of being engaged is greatly under-estimated. Anyone can speak to you, yet very few will spark your mind in a fashion that makes you want to listen. The best Podcasts tend to be those that, when you listen, you wish to be involved. You are engaged, the discussion has you thinking, and as a result you yearn for more.
In person, someone can use body language to supplement their speech. Their gaze or gestures can address you personally, even if you’re a part of a crowd. This will call your attention to action, preparing yourself to be involved even if you are silent throughout the duration of the speech or performance. A stand-up comic will rely on the audience’s day-to-day expectations to suddenly drop a sentence or concept that disrupts such notions, going against the common sense and introducing an element of surprise. Good comedy requires some level of thought, and a stand-up comedian lives and dies on their ability to predict and shock the human mind.
Writing must be the same way. It must, in some fashion, call the reader’s mind to attention. Metaphors are frequently used for this, to force the brain to call up familiar imagery in an effort to generate a description. Describing my thoughts spread upon the monitor as leaves upon a lawn, did it not bring your mind to attention? Did my comparison to the transmission of a car get you thinking?
This is the trick I’ve been ignoring, an easy one to miss when it comes to writing analytical papers. I want to make my insights entertaining to read. I’ve become deathly afraid of falling into the common habit of writing a critique like a common mainstream review. Bullet points embellished into paragraphs, instructions on playing the game without illustrating the experience. A sudden conclusion at the end that expects all the previous statements to somehow add up into a nice, score-worthy sum.
Instead of truly working to understand how to make insight an engaging read, however, I’ve been hung up on whether I can “make my words flourish”. Fancy vocabulary, pretty words that alliterate beautifully. Basic poetry keeping the mind occupied until a point must be made. Yet these were red herrings, distracting me from what I really needed to work on.
I am reminded of other writing friends of mine that would frequently describe their “muse” as being on vacation. Oh, how they’d love to sit down and write, but they just cannot find their muse. A muse, however, is merely inspiration, and inspiration only strikes on occasion. A muse is not going to be in your employ, and if they were, then they should be fired and replaced for slacking off on the job so frequently. Inspiration is inspiration because it comes suddenly and without expectation.
A writer cannot rely on such things. Not an excellent writer, at least. An excellent writer is appreciative of inspiration when it strikes, perhaps treating their muse to a beer once all is said and done, but an excellent writer is instead aware of the tools at their disposal, capable of systematically applying their trade and, through practiced instinct, know when and where to apply it.
If I have a resolution for 2015, it is to make sure I do not write about a game unless I have a proper thesis. This thesis is to be more complex than “is this game good or terrible”. It shall instead zoom in on an aspect of that game, perhaps the core of it, and use that as the talking point. I am not a consumer reviewer, after all. I am here for the reader that wants to think about games in more terms than “should I buy, rent, or skip”. I am here for those that share the same interest as I. To understand and appreciate the art of game design in a more deep fashion.
This means my challenge is to think about the game experience differently. To zoom in on all of its elements and find something to say, to find a thesis. If that means I leave several aspects of a game dismissed or unaddressed, so be it. I am hear to engage the reader by calling the experience of playing a game to their attention.
That is the communication I must master.